If you’re a new mom trying to navigate a different life while still trying to ride and train to retain some part of your former self, I’m here to offer commiseration and to let you know that it does get better. As a stay-at-home mom, a lot of days I feel like I’m in a waiting room; I have all day to ride, but I’m on a short lead rope. My kids will always have my heart, but that young dressage rider with a dream still chills at the hitching post in my frontal lobe.
Fitting in riding horses and dressage training as a mother of three is quite the challenge. My little girls—my "fillies"—keep me busy. It’s a lot like training horses: It is nonstop grooming, teaching, redirecting and rewarding with snacks. My husband works full time for an ITS company so it is usually just my girls and me during the daytime hours. We always seem so busy but we never get anything done. Then again, keeping a house clean with kids in the mix is like eating Oreos while brushing your teeth.
Where does dressage training fit in here? Well, we do play with Breyer horses, but we try to ride real horses three to four times a week. That is now though. When my first child was born, we lived a thousand miles from my family’s farm so riding horses wasn’t an option. Tragic! We were back in our home state when my second daughter was born. And then there were horses to ride!
Unfortunately, having a baby and a demanding toddler that ran the house made finding time to ride difficult. Rushing through grooming, riding and chores in between nursing a baby is a real drag. My adorably grumpy baby was a snacker. She left very little time between snacking to do much of anything before melting down so bad that one might think her chubby little arm was being sawed off. Needless to say, I did not do very much riding for a couple years after my second little beauty.
It wasn’t until my third little girl was about a year old that I had a horse of my very own. I am beyond lucky and gracious to have my mom hang out with my squad while I ride. My girls love their grandma so much! Periodically I wait for my husband to come home from work to go riding by myself. I know my mom will say otherwise, but you can’t tell me that my kids don’t annoy the life force right out of her so I feel she deserves breaks from their shenanigans.
My little chicks are 9, 7 and 4 now, so the dynamics of riding and showing have changed a bit since even a year ago. Over the summer, I hatched a method of riding without bothering anyone to keep an eye on my kiddos. We took some cool farm toys out in the barn with us. They’ll play in the sand with toy loaders and dump trucks. I’ll set up a cute little toy fence so their Breyers can canter to their hearts content! I said to myself. I’m sure in that moment you could actually see the gears turning in my head.
Epic fail. Sure, the gates were closed to protect them from the horses, but as evidenced, gates do not protect against fighting and tantrums. Gates don’t keep the good toys in your possession and they most certainly do not stop your sister from being a boss mare. I scored a solid five-minute ride before hopping down to referee who won the sand-kicking contest. It was worth a try.
Though my girls don’t have the patience to wait for me to ride, they do enjoy brushing my horse. They can only reach his legs, which is great because then I don’t have to bend over to do it. Taking care of kids while attempting to be an active rider is a shuffle, but we make it work. Even though my kids have no idea what dressage is, I got a sweet request when they found out that there was a costume class at one of our local shows, so if you see Elsa riding to “Let It Go,” it’s probably me.